Archive for the ‘Investing in Education’ Category

Resilience Film Screening: Recap

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Last week, about 100 people gathered in Theatre N for a screening of the film “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope” and panel discussion among local experts. If you weren’t one of the lucky 100, here’s a summary of the event, themes from the conversation, and ways to get involved.

Why Resilience?
“Resilience” is a documentary by KPJR (the makers of “Paper Tigers”) that chronicles the birth of a new movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators, and communities, to delve into the science behind Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and using cutting-edge brain science to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction, and disease that cause toxic stress.

As we described in a previous blog post, Adverse Childhood Experiences are not an “over there” problem—ACEs are shockingly prevalent, in Delaware and around the country, and with children of all backgrounds. Attendees at the screening voluntarily and confidentially submitted their ACEs score. The tallied results affirmed this. 53% of attendees reported an ACE score of two or more.

A major theme of “Resilience” is just how prevalent trauma is—and that greater public awareness of these issues could lead to a shift in how we address them. If a young person experiencing trauma knew that other classmates experienced something similar—would that make it less scary? Would he feel more empowered to seek help? As better trauma-informed community members, might we start asking the question “what happened to you?” instead of “what’s wrong with you?” when dealing with at-risk youth?

How do you build resilience?
The film identified that healthy, positive relationships are the number one source of resilience. A report by Casey Family Programs, Balancing Adverse Child Experiences (ACEs) With HOPE: New Insights into the Role of Positive Experience on Child and Family Development elaborates on this point and urges a balance of trauma-informed policies and HOPE-informed measures.

The report summarizes research studies showing that the negative impact of adversity on childhood development can be remedied through:

  • Nurturing and supportive relationships
  • Safe, stable, protective, and equitable environments to develop, play, and learn
  • Constructive social engagement and connectedness
  • Social and emotional competencies

The HOPE model (The Health Outcomes of Positive Experiences), pictured below, takes an asset-based approach.

Additionally, attendees were given the Resilience screener which helps identify protective factors and positive experiences that can increase one’s ability to handle adversity.

How can we make this happen in Delaware?
Following the film, three panelists fielded questions and comments from the audience:

  • Aileen Fink, PhD | Director of Trauma-Informed Care, Delaware Children’s Department
  • Meghan M. Lines, PhD | Clinical Director, Nemours A.I. duPont Hospital for Children
  • Teri Lawler | School Psychologist, Stanton Middle School, Red Clay School District

And a few themes emerged from the conversation:

  • Resilience is learned: We are not born with the ability to overcome stress. It must be intentionally modeled and developed. In schools, there needs to be a common language for integrating social and emotional learning alongside academic learning.
  • Positive relationships are key. This includes a primary care doctor, educators, parents, grandparents, and others.
  • Parental involvement is essential: Support positive parenting practices with multi-generational, evidence-based approaches (such as home visiting) to build social, emotional, and executive functioning skills.
  • Meet students (and families) where they are: Listening is a crucial first step, rather than assuming. Children and families need to be engaged in their own social and emotional development, and interventions or services need to be tailored to their unique needs.
  • Recognize where data-driven decision-making is needed: Enable innovative interventions, keep track of what’s working for kids, and adjust or abandon strategies accordingly.
  • Coordinate services: Schools can be a hub for services, but educators can’t be expected to do it alone.
  • Siloes exists: One of the challenges will be coordinating and communicating across health, education, government, community, etc. Additionally, political will and availability of funding are challenges but not excuses.
  • ACES are a public health concern, and awareness building is needed. For instance, ongoing professional development for educators starting in pre-service is needed to first build awareness, and then build skills.

What’s next?

  • Encourage your colleagues to learn their ACEs or Resilience
  • Read more about Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Wilmington City & Delaware’s Children.
  • Share your thoughts! Tweet your responses to the following questions using #SELinDE.
    • What are you doing to build resilience?
    • What resilience initiatives are already underway in Delaware?
    • What else is needed to help overcome the effects of adverse childhood experiences?
    • How can we do to build on what’s working?
  • Visit http://bit.ly/RodelSEL to find additional information on national and state level data and initiatives related to Social and Emotional Learning.
  • Be on the lookout for the Vision Coalition of Delaware’s 10th Annual Conference on October 30th where community members will converge in Newark to explore the intersection of education and healthy communities.

When Kids Fall Through the Cracks, it Costs Taxpayers Double

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Investing in Education
It’s not just kids, parents, and teachers who feel the impact of our public schools. If you’re a citizen of Delaware, then you are—in one way or another—affected by our state’s education system. Check back regularly as we take a closer look at how When Students Succeed, We All Win.

With a budget deficit nearing half a billion dollars, Delaware needs to invest where it counts. The school-to-prison pipeline—which gets its name from the research-supported pattern that the more times a student faces in-school and out-of-school suspensions, the more likely they are to drop out of school and become incarcerated—is harmful for students and costly for the state.

 

An investment in education, coupled with efforts to make school more engaging and to make discipline policies more equitable will not only save lives down the line, but thousands of dollars as well.

 

Implicit Bias and Zero Tolerance Policies Fuel the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Students of color and students with disabilities are more likely to be suspended from school than their peers for minor infractions. In the 2012-13 school year, more than 18,000 students were suspended or expelled from school—that was 13 percent of the overall Delaware student population, according to Delaware Department of Education information obtained by the ACLU of Delaware. Often, these disparities are worsened by zero tolerance policies and implicit bias.

 

Zero tolerance policies require a one-size-fits-all approach to disciplinary infractions. They do not allow teachers and administrators to look at each situation on a case-by-case basis, according to this policy brief from Delaware Education Research and Development Center at University of Delaware.  These policies result in unfair suspensions and expulsions.

 

Implicit bias is the manifestation of unconscious racial prejudices and stereotypes that result in discriminatory or exclusive behavior. In the case of the school discipline, the result are far more referrals for students of color for disciplinary action, according to an issue brief from the Kirwan Institute.

 

Action You Can Take

 

  • Reach out to your school board to ask about discipline policies in your district.
  • Talk to your school leaders about programs that divert students from suspension and expulsion, such as restorative justice.
  • Parents should request for discipline data that is broken down by sub-groups to be available to the public. Using the data, we can see where discipline disparities exist and work to rectify them.
  • Students and parents should advocate for cultural competency training for educators at all levels. In order to curb the role implicit bias plays in the school-to-prison pipeline, school personnel should be able to recognize the role implicit bias plays in their interactions with all students.

 

As school districts and state officials tirelessly search for ways to save money, it is essential that we address the preventative measures that can be taken to keep kids out of the criminal justice system, and in school.

Digging Deeper: Student Need Grows as Budgets Shrink

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Digging Deeper
“Digging Deeper” is a recurring feature at the Rodel blog where we take some data on Delaware public schools—and put it under the microscope. In the spirit of our Public Education at a Glance, we’ll present a straightforward look at the numbers, and search for some deeper meaning.

 

Delaware’s budget crisis has taken quite a toll on education and the state as a whole. At the same time, student needs are growing, with some of our highest-need populations (low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities) increasing at a faster rate than ever.

 

With changing demographics and the expanding role of the public school system, students are going to need all the resources they can get. At the same time, alarming achievement gaps still remain, indicating we aren’t funding schools in a way that meets the unique needs of individual students and the added needs of English learners or students in poverty.

 

As schools and districts brace for possible programmatic and personnel cuts, there’s no time like the present to seriously reassess Delaware’s education financing system. Fewer teachers and less quality programming might save money, but it won’t deliver an excellent and equitable educational opportunity to all students.

 

In the last decade, Delaware’s high-need student population has increased sharply.

 

Over the past 10 years, total enrollment has increased by 11 percent—with huge increases in special education and English learners.

The low-income student population has dropped by more than 28,000 students after the state changed the methodology for determining low-income status. While the calculation determining which families are deemed low-income has changed, it does not mean that there are fewer students living in poverty.

 

Today, more than one-third of students are low-income.

 

In other words almost 50,000 out of about 136,000 students enrolled in Delaware public schools as classified as low-income, and nearly 20,000 are special education.

While it appears as that English learners populate a small proportion of the total student population—it’s important to remember that they are also the fastest growing. In fact, in some counties, English learners constitute nearly 10 percent of public school students.

 

Sussex County holds the highest proportion of low-income and English learners.

We know disadvantaged students need more resources.

 

We also know that investing in education benefits students—and society as a whole. This is especially true for students living in poverty, where an investment into evidence-based programs could have implications for student outcomes, according to a report on from the United States Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission. English learning students are in the same boat, where more resources are needed for teachers and tools that can ensure their success. Also, while students with disabilities do get more funding, often a lack of flexibility in that funding still means that these students are being left behind.

 

In this budget crisis, we need to maintain investments in education now more than ever, especially for our most vulnerable students.

 

A plan to transition Delaware’s inequitable funding system is long overdue for students living in poverty and English learners. Delaware’s 70-year-old funding formula doesn’t account for the full range of student needs and simply doesn’t reflect the diversity of our modern-day student population.

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